Videos as notes

Years ago I taught IPC144 at Seneca College and had made up a really nice set of notes for my students.  I remember spending hours doing it, drawing diagrams, writing up the words to hopefully make the course easier to understand.  Its been years since I taught to course but I am once again teaching it and when I went to look for those notes, I found that I had managed to somehow erase all traces of them.  So … what to do…

Initially I was going to just rewrite the notes… put it on a github wiki so that I won’t lose it again.  This seemed like a good idea but then I started thinking about it a bit more… The first semester students have the textbook from the book store.  Then they have the notes on the comon ipc site… if I add my own that would be three different sets of reading.  Now, while I think that it is a good idea for students to read, I don’t know that it would be tremendously helpful for them to just read the same thing over and over with 3 different authoring styles.  Realistically, I also don’t think students will read all 3 sets of notes.  I’d be happy if they read one.  So I thought about how I could remake my notes in a way that would make it more likely that my students will use it for prep.   This is when I decided I’d make some videos instead of more notes.

So far I have only made 6 of them (all around setting up your computer, using a text editor etc) but I plan to do more.  I admit… I’m a bit nervous about it.  I think it goes back to that debate of whether or not to put your lecture notes on the web or not… If you put your notes on the web, will your students still come to class?  And then I thought to my own studies… the answer was… yes.  I went to class regardless of whether or not the notes were online… Notes can only say so much.  The lecture details things that are not in the notes or perhaps things that are not completely clear through the reading.  It was about interacting with the prof and your fellow classmates.  Besides… if my 5 min video can replace my 40 min lecture… I’m probably doing something very very wrong in my lecture.

What I plan to do over the course of the term is to make a number of short videos (no more than 5 min each) on the topics we are covering.   I am not looking to replace my lectures.  The way I am seeing these videos and the way I want my students to think about the videos is to view them like videos of video game boss kills.  You watch the video and then try to do it yourself in game.  The videos show you what to expect.  Similarly, you watch the videos on course material to get a basic grasp of what is happening.  You come to class to refine that knowledge and practice problems on that topic.

Making the videos

I start off by deciding on the topic I want to make a video for and figure out how I would talk about it.   I also try very hard not to go off topic or do asides as I want to make videos that are to the point.  I screen capture what I want using snapz and a mic in real time(I run a vm when I need to show something windows specific and screen capture it that way).  I could have used something like imovie to voice over a video after I make it but I found that it was just as hard to do that than to do it during the capture. I might try writing a small script next time but I hate sounding like I’m reading.

Popcorn.js + subtitling

One of the students in my class has a hearing impediment and I didn’t want him to miss out.  I checked out youtube’s automatic close captioning of the 6 videos I made and they were hillarious but not accurate or useful.  Thus, I decided I would need to caption it myself.  Now… the way that I’m doing it right now is extremely manual.  If anyone has a better idea on how to do it, I would love to hear from you!   What I do is I type out what I’m saying during the video (I do remove my um’s and ah’s and small misspeaks though) approximately one statement per line. then I watch the video and I figure out the time in the video when I  finish saying the statement and make a note of it with each statement.

I have a generic html document that looks like this:

<script src="popcorn-complete.min.js"></script>
Popcorn( function(){
var popcorn ="#video", [ ""], {controls:1});
  "start": ,
  "end": ,
  "target": "subtitle-div",
  "text": ""
    <div id="left-panel" style="width:640px;">
    <div id="video" style="width:640px; height:440px;"></div>
    <div id="subtitle-div" style="font-size:large;width:640px;"></div>
    <div id="right-panel">
    <div id="top-right"></div>
 <div id="bottom-right"></div>

To create the captioning, I repeat the .footnote block and add in the text from the text file I created.  I then fill in the end times (start time for each is same as previous block’s end time.)  The reason I’m not doing this with popcornmaker is because I wanted to have it laid out more like a web page than a video.  I also am using popcorn to add links to things that I refer to in the video to make it super cool 🙂

Anyhow, if you you can check it out here and here. 


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